Mass Effect 2

I have a confession to make, though it pains me to admit it: I never really got into Mass Effect. I dabbled a bit, but didn’t stick with it long enough to become truly hooked. Having just come off a full-on gaming bender with the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, I can see I’ll have to revisit the original – if only to round out the experience while waiting for the third instalment to arrive.


Compelling story lines and a flair for the dramatic are Bioware’s signature dish, be it in the realms of fantasy or science fiction, and this is one out of the box. The intrigue laden plot is deep and populated by memorable, convincing characters – often burdened with unfinished business or emotional baggage.


For those who didn’t play Mass Effect (for whatever reason), an interactive comic provides a tidy summary of key events leading up to ME2’s turbulent kick-off. It’s both entertaining and informative, supplying enough information for you to forge ahead with confidence. There were occasions during the game when playing the original would’ve been advantageous, to flesh out the history behind some of the characters. For everything else, there’s an onboard codex to provide comprehensive information and background for planets, races, politics, technology and equipment… pretty much anything you ever needed to know about the Mass Effect universe. What’s really impressive is that each entry is delivered verbally as well as textually… what a mammoth undertaking!


The game’s setting and story have been covered already in our ME2 reviews, for PC and 360; however that was over a year ago, so a quick refresher wouldn’t hurt: Two years on from a violent encounter that destroyed both ship and self, Commander Shepard finds himself recruited by Cerberus, a shady, xenophobic organisation to which he owes his survival. An alien race known as the Collectors has been abducting colonists for purposes unknown (but obviously nefarious), and Shepard is tasked with finding and eliminating this new threat. Equipped with a shiny new vessel and physical enhancements – courtesy of Cerberus - Shepard sets out to recruit another crack team of specialists to do just that.


A simple character creation process allows you to choose your gender and personalise Shepard’s appearance, profession and background… or you can simply import your character from the previous game. With the exception of one possible ending, you’ll also be able to carry this character across to ME3, so bear in mind that everything you do in the game will influence your future experience. During play you will have many opportunities to take compassionate (Paragon) or ruthless (Renegade) actions, earning morality points to unlock extra dialogue options and affect cut scenes directly. This, along with the many in-game variables is incentive enough to play through the game a couple of times, trying both the ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ personas, to see how they affect the outcome.


The in-game radial menus are simple to navigate, whether you are simply holding a conversation or making tactical decisions in the thick of combat. Once you have familiarised yourself with the controls you will barely have to spare them a thought, leaving you free to immerse yourself in the game. Even though ME2 is technically an RPG, combat plays out like a fast paced, third person shooter... and a good one at that. Enemies are smart enough to make good use of cover as well as their class abilities, and will actively try to flank you. The only respite from the action is when you switch out weapons or activate powers (which pauses the game), or your enemies lie in charred ruins at your feet.


Successful missions and side quests reward you and your squad with XP, and there’s a modest amount of choices when it comes to upgrading your skills. By RPG standards, levelling up in ME2 is a pared back, streamlined process, but if you have neither the time nor inclination for such matters there’s an option to auto assign skill points – both to Shepard and his squad. This should please gamers who may shy away from RPGs because of their reputation for tedious number crunching and character tweaking.


Rocking up to other systems and plundering their unexplored planets provides resources for tech and gear upgrades, and occasionally an interesting side quest. The change of pace contrasts nicely to the adrenaline-fuelled intensity of fire fights, and you can spend as much or as little time on it as you wish. I spent over 35 hours’ playing time on the game overall, with a goodly portion being devoted to this R&D aspect.


Visually, you know you’re in for a treat from the very first cut scene. The entire game has a heavily cinematic feel to it, with edgy, creative use of camera angles and focusing techniques, as well as added touches such as lens flares and ambient lighting for added drama. Character expressions, movement and mannerisms are remarkably lifelike, and so too are the many environments you’ll visit. Attention to detail spills over into the background, to those lesser sights and sounds you may not immediately appreciate or notice, but which help breathe life into each setting. From the lush surroundings of a primordial forest, to the grungy, garbage filled bowels of a mercenary stronghold, to personalised advertising on the Citadel (marketing strategists take note!); it’s all very impressive. Load screens aside, the only real interference to the game’s seamless flow came in the form of that dreaded game freeze, which happened several times while I was playing. No loss of data, but an unwanted interruption nonetheless.


There’s an enormous amount of dialogue in the game, but you won’t have to wade through pages and pages of text. The textual components are brief and merely convey the gist of the conversation. Once you’ve selected your response it is expanded on verbally, which helps keep your head in the game and your eyes on the screen. Most of the voice talent is spot on (Seth Green is fantastic as the irreverent Joker); although there were a couple of characters whose performances were lacklustre, or just plain annoying. Incidental music runs the gamut from grandiose orchestral compositions to techno, and is a fitting accompaniment to the circumstances, be it fighting mercenary scum or hanging out at the nightclub.


Another deal sweetener is the good selection of bonus DLC, which adds value to the overall package. In addition to having additional armour, weaponry etc. at your disposal, you’ll also gain access to new missions and squad members. It’s a sizable download but well worth getting.


Mass Effect 2 definitely deserves the accolades it has been receiving, and you will want to play it through twice - whether to try out Shepard’s other gender option, or to rethink some of the critical decisions you made first time around. I can honestly say I haven’t been this captivated by an RPG since The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and have joined the legion of fans eagerly awaiting the third instalment.

Mass Effect 2
"A primo action RPG for the masses"
- Mass Effect 2
Follow Own it? Rating: R13   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments Comments (14)

Posted by Hellrend3r
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 1:19 PM
That Miranda.Oho boy.
Posted by stupidlikeafox
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 1:59 PM
yeah, i only clicked the link to hopefully see that picture again. mmm.
Posted by Sigmatech
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 3:30 PM
In total agreement with this review, so NZG (Micky) picked miranda aye.....

I put the mission first :/
Posted by Takuyafire
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 3:58 PM
Sexy game...but out on the PS3 way too late.

Even if it does use the ME3 engine.
This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
Posted by ChatterboxZombie
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 9:44 PM
w......why did they review it just now?
it was game of the year......last year...
This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
Riot Pig
Posted by Riot Pig
On Wednesday 16 Feb 2011 10:52 PM
16 February 2011, 09:44 PM Reply to ChatterboxZombie
w......why did they review it just now?
it was game of the year......last year...
They reviewed it on PC and 360 last year. This is their third time reviewing it, as it only just came out on PS3.
Posted by MA3LK
On Thursday 17 Feb 2011 12:10 AM
Deffinately going to get this, with all the positive reviews on the net.
Posted by Astarael
On Thursday 17 Feb 2011 12:53 AM
Do you secretly have a camera in my house? I finished ME2 this morning at about 6:30am. Not my fault, it is amazingly compelling. I thought "Just one more mission" then BAM! it was the end of the game and the sun was coming up.

Miranda is one of the few video game characters whose voice actor is as (if not more) hot than the actual character. Good review.
Posted by Vicx
On Thursday 17 Feb 2011 4:00 PM
Posted by Kegz
On Saturday 19 Feb 2011 2:08 PM
Crap... maybe I should get it.
Posted by p1nkm15t
On Saturday 19 Feb 2011 3:51 PM
17 February 2011, 04:00 PM Reply to Vicx
Save Miranda!!

(Right-click pic, Save As)
Posted by mandingo
On Sunday 20 Feb 2011 6:45 PM
16 February 2011, 03:30 PM Reply to Sigmatech
In total agreement with this review, so NZG (Micky) picked miranda aye.....

I put the mission first :/
wow! You must love games more then women
Posted by KapaiZombie
On Monday 21 Feb 2011 12:14 PM
One of the best games I've ever played. Thank goodness it came to PS3. Already played it through 3 times and I'm really holding myself back not to play a new game.
Posted by dragnew
On Monday 21 Feb 2011 12:32 PM
Am I the only one who liked Tali more than Miranda?